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A Tile-Based User Interface
Windows Phone 7 features an astonishing departure for a mobile operating system in the shape of its Metro UI, a user interface that centers on hubs and live tiles.
The six hubs – Games, Office, Pictures, Music & Video, People and Marketplace – are represented (along with everything else on the Windows Phone 7 start screen) by tiles, and these are designed to relate information about the hub direct to the start screen.
A key feature of the user interface, live tiles can also be put to good use by third party app developers such as those that make weather apps.
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Windows Phone 7 Live Tiles – What Do They Do?
Put simply, the live tiles give you information. Using “push notification” technology – a means of updating the application remotely – the live tiles will tell you what the current status of something is.
With the live tiles that are installed natively, this will depend on the hub the tile is associated with. For instance the People hub live tile displays images of your contacts that have recently interacted with any social networks you have connected to through your phone, while the Marketplace hub informs you how many of the apps and games you have installed have updates available for them. Similarly, the Pictures hub will display your current favourite photo.
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Third Party Live Tiles
With third party live tiles you can extend the functionality of your Windows Phone 7, delivering information you might normally only find in an app direct to the start screen.
A great example of this would be the app for The Weather Channel, which combines localized data and weather reports customized for your part of the world and pushes them to a live tile on your Windows Phone 7 which can then be positioned as per your own preference.
Such use of the push notification technology is rare at present as it can only really apply to applications that aggregate current data, such as news, weather, sports and social applications such as Twitter.
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Limitations of WP7 Live Tiles
One aspect of the Windows Phone 7 live tiles that you should know is that there is a limit to the number of apps that can be run that send push notifications to a live tile.
At present, this limit is set at 15 in order to minimise the used bandwidth by suitably equipped apps. Due to an oversight by Microsoft (and expected to be resolved with the impending update of Windows Phone 7) the sixteenth app to be installed that employs a live tile can generate an error message.
However, the chances of reach this limit or seeing the error message are currently very low as there are few apps with different functions that provide push notifications.
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- Author's own experience.
- Screenshot from Windows Phone Newsroom, http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/windowsphone/imageGallery.aspx